The BBC are running a story about the dredging of a natural sand bank between India and Sri Lanka that aims to make it navigable to shipping. It is called the Sethusamudram Canal. However, some Hindu’s believe that Ram Setu (Lord Ram’s bridge) was built by Lord Ram’s army of monkeys, as stated in their book the Ramayana.
What has really sparked off protests is that The Archaeological Survey of India produced a scientific document on Wednesday discrediting the myth and even going so far as to question the existence of Ram.
The myths about Ram Setu are similar to the myths about Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, which claims it was made by Finn MacCool in order to entice a Scottish giant over for a fight. Or that the Isle of Man was formed by Finn throwing a huge lump of rock into the Irish Sea, forming Lough Neagh in the process. (Note how the Irish legend doesn’t require an entire army of monkeys to help out. Our gods are better than your gods…:-))
One question that occurs to me is this: where is that fine army of monkeys when you need them? Surely Ram can just call them in to sort out the problem?
But while we may ridicule the legend itself, I do think that the real truth of this story is about a clash between the natural environment and man’s unnatural attempts to control it. This is similar to the building of the M3 motorway through the landscape of Tara – it doesn’t matter whether the myths about Tara are true or false. It only matters that the landscape is important to our history, our sense of place, our connection with the past. Science is right at one level only – but is irrelevant at a different level.
In a sense then, I am in total sympathy with the Hindu protesters, if not for the same reasons. Regardless of who built the land bank, it seems wrong to wantonly destroy it in the name of progress.